Transferable Skills To Help You Succeed (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

While some skills are specific to certain jobs or industries, transferable skills can be useful in a variety of professions. It's likely that you possess several important transferable skills that employers value. Whether you're seeking a promotion, thinking about changing careers or just looking for a new job, showcasing your transferable skills can improve your chances of achieving your goal. In this article, we define transferable skills, provide top examples of such skills and explain how you can highlight them as you search for a job.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills, also known as portable skills, are skills that are widely applicable. They aren't specific to any one job or role, so you can use them to equal effect in various professions, industries and other areas of your life. These skills can be helpful when you're seeking new employment opportunities, particularly if you hope to change careers.

For example, someone with excellent writing skills would be suitable for a wide variety of jobs because written communication is a key activity in many occupations. They could secure work in industries as varied as publishing, marketing, social media, research and education.

Examples of transferable skills

The transferable skills required in a profession are likely to vary according to the needs of specific employers. That being said, there are some skills that employers commonly seek in an ideal candidate. These include:

Writing

As mentioned, writing is a skill that is useful across numerous industries and professions. For example, most office jobs require the ability to write concise, effective correspondence, while professions within research and education often involve drafting requests for grants and essential communications among colleagues. It's a good idea to master at least the mechanics of language to show you're capable of error-free writing. Then you can develop the more advanced skills of tone and flow.

Numeracy

Numeracy skills relate to the understanding and use of mathematical principles and their application in the real world. Basic numeracy skills include operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, while advanced skills include areas like statistics, data and graphical concepts. As with writing, numeracy is useful in a wide range of disciplines, including finance, economics, education and general office work.

Computer skills

Computer skills refer to the ability to use and understand computers and software. Many jobs require employees to be proficient in basic computing functions such as typing, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, accounting and email. Higher-level skills may involve troubleshooting and the advanced functions of software applications. Mastery of either basic or advanced computing can improve your candidacy for a large number of office professions. The ability to learn new computer-related competencies is also helpful, as technology is constantly advancing and requires the workforce to keep pace.

Read more: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

Communication

A person with strong communication skills can convey information effectively. Communication also refers to the ability to adapt your message to various contexts and to receive information by listening and reading body language. Such skills are valuable in the workplace because a steady, reliable stream of information allows the members of an organisation to complete their work accurately and effectively.

Related: 10 Effective Communication Skills for Career Success

Teamwork

Teamwork is the ability to work well with others to achieve a common goal. It's a soft skill that involves numerous other personal qualities, including cooperation, schedule coordination and the ability to handle pressure. In instances of conflict, an employee with strong teamwork skills can mediate between parties or mitigate any issues that involve themselves. This is important because the workplace is often a collaborative environment, therefore the ability to resolve problems can remove distractions and help keep people focused.

Read more: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

Organisation

Someone with excellent organisation skills is likely to maintain an orderly workspace and agenda. They often manage their time and priorities expertly and can consistently complete tasks on time. Employers tend to value organised employees for their systematic, efficient approach to work, which can be useful for higher-level supervisory and management positions.

Reliability

Reliability refers to qualities that show you're a dependable and effective contributor to an organisation. A reliable employee is one who arrives on time, fulfils their duties and takes appropriate responsibility for both triumphs and mistakes. Employers often entrust reliable employees with higher-order assignments, knowing they're capable of managing the goals and dynamics involved.

Leadership

Leadership skills are qualities that are useful for managing others and directing them towards shared goals. People with leadership qualities often take strategic risks and can motivate their peers to perform their best. They're also able to self-motivate and handle responsibilities that others can't. Previous experience as a manager or supervisor isn't necessary to show such skills. You can also demonstrate them through collaborative work or by taking the initiative on certain tasks.

Related: 10 Leadership Skills To Highlight In Your Resume

Decision-making

A person with sound decision-making skills can analyse circumstances and confidently determine a course of action that can produce the most value for the organisation. Decision-making relates to leadership in that it's a common skill among strong leaders. However, those in non-leadership positions can also benefit from this skill, as it can help to empower them to make wise choices on their own and guide others to do the same.

Related: Enhance Your Decision-Making With Deductive Reasoning

Adaptability

Adaptability is the ability to respond to changes such as new demands, environments or resources. Someone who's adaptable can accept such changes with little to no decrease in productivity or morale. Instead, they often maintain an optimistic attitude that can help others stay positive as well. Adaptable individuals may also be adept at learning new ideas, skills and processes, and they're able to seamlessly incorporate that new learning into their workplace activities.

Creativity

Creativity is a skill that allows you to think in novel ways. Creative people can often find imaginative solutions to problems because they analyse situations from multiple perspectives and predict outcomes. Creativity can also foster curiosity, which is essential for seeking new knowledge and methods. Employers who value innovation often seek creative individuals for their ability to recognise abstract connections.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand another person's feelings and vicariously experience them yourself. As an empathic person, you can relate to those you work with and connect with them on a deeper level. Employers often value this soft skill because it can strengthen workplace relationships, facilitate communication and create a friendlier workplace that is conducive to high morale and productivity.

Highlighting your transferable skills

Highlighting your transferable skills can improve your candidacy for the jobs you want. Here are some techniques for making your transferable skills stand out on your CV, on your cover letter and in your interview:

Transferable skills on your CV

There are several areas on your CV in which you can list and explicate your key transferable skills. The first of these is the CV summary, an optional section towards the beginning of the document in which you describe your qualities as a candidate. It's a good idea to state your key transferable skills in your self-description, focusing on your most important or best-developed skills.

Another area of the CV in which you can highlight your transferable skills is your employment history. For each job entry in this section, provide concrete examples of how your transferable skills have allowed you to meet goals and achieve success. For example, if you wish to highlight writing skills, you might note an instance when someone recognised your excellent writing or when it resulted in a valuable gain for you or your employer.

Related: How To Write a Qualifications Summary in a CV (With Examples)

Transferable skills on your cover letter

A cover letter provides a longer format in which you can describe key transferable skills in greater detail. Again, try to focus on your best-developed qualities. In the body of the letter, present your skills in the context of anecdotes from your professional journey. Explain how you've developed these skills and implemented them in successful ways. It may be a good idea also to mention how these skills have allowed you to overcome challenges and led you to new experiences. This can suggest that you're not only skilled but also capable of growth.

Related: How To Structure a Cover Letter (With Example)

Transferable skills during your interview

The interview itself can be a platform from which you demonstrate key transferable skills to the hiring manager. For example, providing strong responses showcases your ability to communicate, well-structured answers can point towards organisational skills and swift responses can be indicative of decision-making skills. To demonstrate your skills during the interview, try to rehearse responses to potential questions beforehand. Study the job description to predict what questions the interviewer might ask, and outline answers that focus on the skills you wish to emphasise.

For example, the interviewer might ask you to discuss a time when you had to manage conflict with a colleague. Your response to this question may be a good time to show how your skills of empathy, communication and leadership helped to mitigate tension and foster camaraderie.

Explore more articles